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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monster PCs

Sorry about the near-deafening silence, here, but I haven't had much to say. I know I should probably be finishing off some of the posts I'd previously promised; there's still another re-design of a planar creature type that I wanted to do, and I believe I still had something to write about the subhexcrawl. However, those (and others on my to-do list) are pretty involved, so I've been procrastinating.

Instead, I thought I'd point everyone to this recent post on Stuart's blog about using monsters as PCs. It's pretty similar to the way I've thought about handling monster PCs (assume they are high level but 0 xp and make players earn the difference before advancing.) But there's a couple differences in the way I'd handle it. First, I wouldn't allow monsters of 9 HD or more, since that is the "end game level" for other characters and should be something the players work for.

Second, I don't use B/X, so the part about stars for special abilities doesn't apply; instead, monsters that cast spells or use spell-like powers are treated as magic-users instead of fighters. Since I use the all-d6s hit dice method, it's easy to look up the monster's hit dice on the magic-user HD progression and translate that into a level; in keeping with the previous point, I probably wouldn't allow magic-using monsters with more than 7 HD (10th level necromancer equivalent.)

Dragons and some other monsters can use the dragon progression, starting with the smallest version with full HD but only 1 hp per die. There's two possible ways to handle dragon level progression. The easy way is to use the above method directly, with the dragon increasing in size but not age when reaching the next level. The other is to divide hit points by 4 to get a level equivalent and allow advancement when that much lower target level is reached, adding 1d6 hit points every other level until the maximum hp for a small dragon of the given type is reached, then proceeding as normal. Either way, you should probably use the M-U charts for dragons, too.


  1. No player has ever expressed any desire to play a monster in any game I've ever run where monsters weren't standard PCs (like they are in World of Darkness games).

    But, I think, if anybody ever does, I'll just tell them that, if they want to play a monster, then they'll have to run their own game.

  2. Centaurs were popular back in the 80s with my friends.

  3. I don't know that it's such a big problem to allow. Very campaign-specific, IMO. I have more civilized orcs in my world that are a PC option, and also use PC1: Tall Tales of the Wee Folk for fey races. This is a BECMI/RC game.

  4. Last weekend, my low-level AD&D 2e group lost half the PCs to a ghoul nest in the ruined Hommlet fort, so we need to roll up new characters. Coincidently, one of the survivors just acquired a gnoll henchman, thanks to a ridiculous bribe-slash-morale check...

    ...so the GM suggested someone take him over. The gnoll, I mean.

    The idea has really grown on me, and I've decided to play him as a Witch Doctor. I don't think it'll be too obnoxious.

  5. Don't let the munchkins win. If they want to play an X, see if it makes sense as a balanced PC class/race. If it doesn't ... don't. If it does, develop that class/race as a homebrew.

  6. I wonder how monster PCs could be ruled similarly to your custom classes...

    1. Well, you could equate monster abilities to the four main abilities (or variants of these) as described in that class construction table, thus basically turning every monster PC into a variant or hybrid class. The Turning ability doesn't show up much in monsters, but variant turning ability could be used as a basis for some monster powers.

      Actually, this gives me ideas for at least two or three new posts. Thanks!

  7. Looking forward to them!

    I really can't set my mind about monster PCs. On one hand, it sounds awesome; on the other, I can hardly imagine a longish campaign with manticoras, djinnis, vampires, and dragons as PCs. For one-shots, however, they might work better.